A Practical Guide for Consensus-Based Decision Making

Posted on November 17, 2017
By Jim Madden

two hand shaking sketch.jpgWhat makes some group efforts so much more effective and satisfying than others? Why do some group decisions enjoy strong buy-in and follow through, and produce tangible results, whereas others fall flat right out of the gate?

The success of collective impact efforts depend a great deal on the quality and effectiveness of face-to-face meetings -- on the process of convening, engaging, focusing, and harnessing the creative energies of the participants. Over the course of many years of working as a community developer in different settings and contexts I have found in particular, that the collective decision-making process is too often undertaken without clear understanding and deliberate intent by participants, often resulting in frustration and confusion. Having noticed this, I decided to try to write up some concise practical suggestions for consensus building for various groups I was working with. I found it made a substantial difference in terms of satisfaction and group effectiveness to reflect on these guidelines together at the beginning, as an integral part of the process. Over the years I have tweaked my little consensus-building handouts as I have learned from experience.

Back in August, I read Liz Weaver’s paper entitled, Turf, Trust, Co-Creation and Collective Impact which resonated with my experience of consensus building. I was inspired to share my rough consensus-building guide with Liz Weaver. Liz thought other groups might benefit from it, and invited me to share it through Tamarack’s network. So after a little further refining, I offer this Practical Guide to Consensus-Based Decision Making. There are many other resources available to support consensus-building (some of which I refer to), and I suspect many people reading this are very skilled consensus builders. I would invite any comments or suggestions that may help support our common endeavors related to community building and collective impact.

Download A Practical Guide to Consensus-Based Decision Making


Community Engagement, Collective Impact, Collaborative Leadership

Jim Madden

By Jim Madden

Jim Madden has worked as a community organizer, a sociologist, in the public health system as a program evaluator and program manager, and in various roles in the mental health system. Jim is currently System Coordinator for the London-Middlesex Children and Youth Mental Health System (as part of the provincial Moving on Mental Health initiative.) For his “third act of life,” Jim finished a Master of Arts degree in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary (Wilfrid Laurier University) in 2015, and is also a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) in private practice.

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